Rain in the West [poem by E. J. Brady]

[Editor: This poem by E. J. Brady was published in Bells and Hobbles (1911).]

Rain in the West.

The “second class” is gay to-night,
As down the gleaming rail
She thunders by, a line of light,
The roaring Western Mail.

The “first” enjoys a fresh cigar, —
Contented by the glass,
He sees the rainwet plains afar
In misty shadows pass.

Within the cab two figures peer
A clouded night and black;
The shadow of the Engineer
Keeps dancing on the track.

But gladly do these worthies meet
The damp indriven wind;
They know its welcome glint is sweet
To those who ride behind.

The white steam hisses her delight.
The brake alone complains,
For extra work is his to-night
Along the Western plains.

A settler waves, in joy of heart,
His ancient, dripping hat,
His huddled stock in terror start
Across the darkened flat.

He’s done at last with starving sheep
And flies, and heat, and dust, —
To-night, a-weary, let him sleep,
The sound sleep of the just.

Now every publican to Bourke
And every sinner too,
To-morrow surely will not shirk
The strong potato brew.

The squatter in his pride and glee
Will shout all hands for joy,
And thro’ the huts will echo free
“The Wild Colonial Boy.”

What cares the drover now where dim
And sodden fails his fire?
This steady downpour is to him
A boon of long desire.

By next week-end a dreary waste
Will all be green and lush;
His soul again will joyful taste
The manna of the Bush.

For grass and water make the bliss,
His fancy most regards.
And there’s a waiting girl to kiss
Behind the trucking yards.

The operator like a horse
Must graft the morrow day,
To carry, in the tongue of Morse,
The rapid wires away.

The coming hours with toil are fraught;
There’s lots of graft to do:—
He would not worry if he got
A yard of rain, or two.

Aye, no-one growls and no-one grieves,
Tho’ tracks be seas of mud,
And one prophetic wight believes
“The thing will end in flood.”

There’s joy on every flat and bend;
The blessed, timely rains,
To care and worry put an end,
Across the patient plains.

For now a stricken land a-curst,
Becomes an Eden blest;
They’ve done with hunger, heat, and thirst —
’Tis raining in the West.”

E. J. Brady, Bells and Hobbles, Melbourne: George Robertson & Co., 1911, pp. 36-38

Editor’s notes:
aye = yes (may also be used to express agreement, assent, or the acceptance of an order)

Bourke = a town in New South Wales, located about 800 kilometres north-west of Sydney; Bourke was once considered to be the remotest town in New South Wales, hence the phrase “back of Bourke”, referring to people or places located far away

Eden = a place or situation which is regarded as a paradise; the Garden of Eden, mentioned in the Bible

gay = happy, joyous, carefree (may also mean well-decorated, bright, attractive) (in modern times it may especially refer to a homosexual, especially a male homosexual; may also refer to something which is no good, pathetic, useless)

graft = work; especially hard work

hand = farmhand; employee; an agent; a servant, manual laborer (can also refer to someone who is skilled at a job or task, e.g. an old hand at the business)

manna = something gained freely and unexpectedly; in the Bible it refers to the food bestowed upon the Israelites in their journey from Egypt, hence the expression “manna from heaven” (also refers to spiritual nourishment; also refers to the substance exuded or excreted by certain insects and plants)

Morse = Morse code

shout = to buy drinks for others; to buy a round of drinks, especially in a pub

squatter = in the context of Australian history, a squatter was originally someone who kept their livestock (mostly cattle and sheep) upon Crown land without permission to do so (thus illegally occupying land, or “squatting”); however, the practice became so widespread that eventually the authorities decided to formalise it by granting leases or licenses to occupy or use the land; and, with the growth of the Australian economy, many of the squatters became quite rich, and the term “squatter” came to refer to someone with a large amount of farm land (they were often regarded as rich and powerful)

tho’ = (vernacular) though

’tis = (archaic) a contraction of “it is”

wight = a creature, a living sentient being, especially a human being; in German, it can refer to a small person or dwarf; in fantasy literature, it can refer to undead or wraith-like creatures

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